Thursday, March 23, 2017

FINDING MY STYLE



Happy spring, everyone!  I've been adding bits and pieces of things to my home that are light and fresh as we wait for the day when we can truly say winter and it's unpredictable weather is behind us  Last week we had a terrible snowstorm that left us with 10 inches of the white stuff, and it surprisingly melted within 2 days.  We've also had thunderstorms and lightning and just about every weather element you can think of.  

Thanks so much for all of your well wishes for whatever disease (virus) I have.  ;)  My infectious disease doctor thinks that based on some of my blood work, I have something very similar but different from mono, and wants to pinpoint it as there may be some medications that can help.  I donated more of my precious blood last week and I'm waiting to hear what will happen next.  Last week was terrible as far as my lack of energy and the amount of time I spent sleeping.  From Monday to Wednesday night I slept almost around the clock but for a few 3 hour periods when I moped around and wondered when I'd ever get my life back.  But I do tell myself all the time, in the realm of all the illnesses and diseases out there, I'm fortunate.  I have days when I really perk up and feel energy and that's when I get caught up on laundry, cleaning and cooking something somewhat normal for The Husband.  I even managed to put in some time to get 2 newspaper columns finished up.  I'm also trying to make the rounds to visit all of you.  I want to mention that I've had a glitch in sending email replies to comments.  It's definitely on my end, something pops up that tells me the email is unsuccessful and I simply can't figure it out.  So please know I'm reading your comments, listening to your experiences, advice and get well wishes, and I really do appreciate it.  




My new and improved reupholstered sofa was delivered back to me on Monday.  I'm really happy with it.  I shared a picture of the sample fabric in THIS post if you want to see it close up.  It's sort of a window pane pattern, cream on taupe.  It looks nubby but it's actually soft.  

I mentioned that I've been looking for a new coffee table as the glass one I have now is just not safe with the little ones visiting.  I was going to look for an ottoman like the one I have at the lake from Pier 1 (you can see it in that same post I linked to earlier).  That was a real bargain and it's very well made if you are considering a small ottoman.  But then that little Jane voice inside said, "Sounds like too much fabric in the room, Jane."  And then that little voice was saying, "A lot of beige here, too, Jane."  So I have food for thought and I may want to have this little Jane exorcised out of me as well.  I'm actually ready to make some decisions tomorrow...I'm sleeping on it.  Hahahaha...


Another view, it looks like it has a sheen to it but it doesn't.  It's actually very cottage~like.  I'd like to go to Hobby Lobby, someone told me that they carry pillow covers.  That sounds great as I have a ton of outdated and ugly pillows and to be able to slip on a new cover is like, well...reupholstering a sofa. 

Decisions...



Our little Madelyn was Christened this past Sunday.  She looks like a little bride here, doesn't she?  She should because her dress was made out of Emily's wedding gown.  There was one other baby being baptized at the same time and I couldn't help but notice her gown.  As I clawed my way to the front of the group to get a photo when they were pouring the water on Madelyn's head,  I noticed a woman who looked grandmotherly (like me) and so I had to whisper to her, identify her relationship to this baby (indeed the grandmother), and learned that dress was actually almost 100 years old, and the woman;s father was the first to be christened in it and 5 more babies thereafter.  It was beautiful.  And of course, so was Madelyn. 

The church was having a fundraiser and selling sweets so just before we had to enter the church, I made a beeline towards the tables laden with cookies, cakes, brownies, pies...and then tripped on an uneven sidewalk and made a very graceful fall down on to my knees and then rocked back on my rear end.  I was so appalled all I could do was sit there, my face red with embarrassment.  But I guess if you ever have to fall you may as well do it in front of a Catholic church.  Within seconds I was surrounded by concerned men and women helping me up, one lady offering me her handkerchief for my bleeding knee, a man not a day younger than ninety offering to help me inside to a pew.  It was so, so sweet, but all I kept thinking was how much I wanted a chocolate chip cookie.  Still, very nice people.



The after party was close to home and it was a great time.  A smallish neighborhood restaurant that set up a buffet of baked potato soup, stuffed pork tenderloin, green beans and roasted potatoes.  The cake came from a local bakery.



These gorgeous cookies are made by a lady in the neighborhood who is known by word of mouth.  They are about 1/4 inch thick and the flavor is unbelievable.  The cake and cookies disappeared.   We've known Mike's family forever so it was a huge family get together and I enjoyed seeing all of these people on his side of the family that love Madelyn as much as we do.  

I'm still watching her on Mondays when Emily works downtown.  With this possibly different virus, the key is to wash my hands often, especially after using the washroom.  It's passed on through urine. I cleared that with the doctor because I really love having her for the day.  I do get very tired but I keep her little cradle next to my bed and when she naps I rest and read and doze a little.  She's getting very accustomed to the atmosphere in our home, and when I look at her she always recognizes me with a big smile.  I just love this little darling.

 This has been a good week so far.  I came down with some sort of chest congestion thing with a cough that sounds like a cross between a dog barking and a foghorn.  Thankfully I still have some cough syrup prescribed last week for when I had some sort of bronchitis thing.  I'm just going to keep catching things, that's the deal.  But in my lucid moments I use disinfectant everywhere so its safe for people to come and go, and I guess its best that I really just stay close to home since so much is airborne.  We have several family members down with some sort of flu going around.  Today I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of 11:00 and the thought of going to the grocery store loomed in front of me.  All I wanted was a hot shower and clean P.J's, followed by a little nap.  We were literally down to nothing though, including Milo and Layla's little snacks.  While I was making coffee and contemplating Plan A, I was reminded of that little nursery rhyme, "Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard..."  So it was more like a hot shower and then out into the 30 degree cold and wind and boy, it's been a long time I've done a big shopping with feeling so down, so my cart was overflowing.  Before I left home I had grabbed a page from one of my notepads with several new recipes to try and the ingredients I needed and I picked those up as well.  It's such a nice feeling to be stocked up and ready to cook and eat healthy again.  We've been having a lot of frozen pizza, Chinese, and occasionally, Corn Flakes for dinner.  But as fate would have it, I was so tired once I got home, well...frozen pizza it was.

See you soon!

Jane x

Thursday, March 16, 2017

UPON US ALL...


Looks relaxing doesn't it?  This was last weekend at the lake, just relaxing with my coffee, looking out at the sunlight glinting off the lake.  As the sun moves over our house to the West, and you are on the actual lake as opposed to the bay, there is a magical time in the late afternoon when the whole lake seems to light up with diamonds.  Hence, the name Diamond Lake.  There is actually a book written about the lake, Diamond Sparkles, and you can find it on Amazon if you'd like.  


I pretty much finished up this corner of the Great room.  You may know we reupholstered the furniture, which was in super shape.  The glider rockers may be 80's 'country-ish', but if you ever had the pleasure of sitting in one of these babies...heaven!   We have to oil them pretty regularly, its second nature to rock and look at the water.  This is my favorite reading spot in the summer (in the winter I'm in front of the fireplace).  The details...the reproduction railway lantern from Target from their line of Farmhouse decor, Beekman 1802.  I also bought 2 additional, although different lamps  from this line for our bedroom.  At about $30, they are perfect for my budget and decor.  You can only find these online, by the way.

The last thing was looking everywhere for an area rug, getting discouraged at the lack of round ones, and so undecided if I wanted a natural or shag, beige or gray, or just use the one I had before.  And then while I was looking at the lamps online at Target, lo and behold I found this, The Eyelash Rug! If you look at the fibers up close they look like little eyelashes, or in my case, the faux kind that I've been known to use Elmer's Glue to reapply for social functions.  Since the furniture is angled, a 5x7 rectangle worked fine.  I was happy, The Husband was happy, and of course the dogs.  Funny, The Husband was very much wanting to have a say in everything I chose in putting the rooms back together but I don't think he really had much patience and he now lets me have my way.  :)

All we have left now is to hang the curtains for these humongous windows.  We have them but whenever I look in that direction, The Husband busies himself with something 'important'.  It's really only the winter nights that creep me out sitting here.  One night I saw the moonlight reflecting off a huge opossum ambling along the shore.  Another, a few pairs of eyes glowing at me, I'm sure raccoons.  


I'm off and running with buying flowers at the grocery store again.  It is just so dreary out and I don't really have many plants.  I did buy some shamrocks to put in  pot last Sunday.  The Southside Irish Parade always takes place the Sunday before St. Paddy's Day just a few blocks away.  It's actually the largest St. Patrick's Day parade outside of Ireland, beating out the one in downtown Chicago.  We always make our corned beef and cabbage the day of the parade.  On the 17th we'll probably have lasagna or Wiener Schnitzel.  ;-D

I really wanted to share this picture so you can see my glass coffee table which sadly, I have to say goodbye to.  I've only had it about 3 or 4 years but if you looks closely at the corners, they are lethally sharp.  When Elsie started walking we covered the whole table with a heavy quilt.  I understand you can find some sort of thingies to attach to corners of furniture at stores which cater to little ones.  We still aren't reassured.  What happens when the kids decide to jump on the couch or have a pillow fight?  And so, the old domino effect started.  I wanted a fabric ottoman to replace the table which could double as seating, but what sort of fabric?  I'd been wanting to reupholster our 15 year old floral sofa so I really needed to work on that fabric first.  Sounds like I do a lot of recovering furniture...what can I say?  You can't beat a quality piece.



I found a family owned business here in Chicago a few blocks away.  And this is the fabric I chose for the couch.  It's hard to tell the color but the owner, Manuel, kept insisting it was gray.  Perhaps since I had said I wanted gray.  And it should be done any day now.  In the picture with the coffee table you can see the club chair, a sort of light beige.  So...now I'm flipping out over an area rug.  This whole decorating/redecorating/designing stuff is not for me.  If I were an artist I'd definitely be a starving artist.  Nothing would get done.  I'd pick up a paint brush, put it down, and then sleep on it a few more weeks.  

I'll keep you posted.  


Madelyn turned 4 months old on the 10th.  It is amazing how fast she is growing.  And while we thought she looked like Emily so much in the first 4 weeks, she has totally morphed into her daddy, Mike.  She is being christened this Sunday.  Her gown was made out of a part of Emily's wedding dress.  I can't wait to share pictures.  

********

I've been really down for the count health~wise, and I had so many of you wish me well that I thought I needed an explanation.  

For almost a year I have been taking a powerful medication to suppress the immune system.  Primarily used to help rejection of organs in patients who received donated organs, it was found to help in a lot of other diseases, in my case, severe and advanced eczema that hadn't responded to any other treatment over the past 25 years.  You can read more about all of this in my post here.  The main reason I'm telling you about this medication is that it suppresses the immune system in an effort to keep it from attacking good cells, and it leaves you wide open to infections.  

In January, what was thought to be a suspicious lump in my left breast, was diagnosed as an enlarged lymph node among many others, after a mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy (no walk in the park).  And then finally, given my fatigue and the nodes indicating signs of infection, I was tested for Mono.  Bingo.


I hope I haven't gone on too long.  I think when we share experiences we can feel connected, and in some cases, give others the courage to seek out answers and not give up.  I know that I was trying to put on a happy face a lot, not only on my blog, but in my everyday life with family and friends. 

 I was so incredibly tired, I simply could not go on telling myself it was because I wasn't twenty anymore or that it was the doldrums of winter.  The truth was I had to set my alarm for noon.  Yes, 12:00 p.m. or I would sleep all afternoon.  12 hours a night was not sufficient.  I would jump out of bed at 9:00 a.m., get dressed, straighten up the house in flash (and a terrible job at that), and meticulously make my bed.  Then I would crawl  back on it under  a throw with a book next to me, all in an attempt to look like I had drifted off while reading in case someone popped in.  I slept for hours on end.  I stopped answering my phone, I didn't have the energy to speak.  I did my grocery shopping at a little 'Mom and Pop' store nearby where I could get in and out in 15 minutes (and you know that grocery shopping is like Disney World for me).  I would pick up sandwiches, chicken dinners or any sort of entree the store made up fresh.  

I don't think The Husband really suspected my lack of activity but this was at the time that we didn't have a diagnosis.  Before I was diagnosed I was just filled with shame.  Watching him go to work everyday, hearing my kids talk about the stresses of their jobs.  I would go to the doctor or the post office or whatever and I would stare at the workers and ask myself, "How does this person get up at 5-6 a.m., shower, dress, eat breakfast, commute and start to think at that early hour?"  It all seemed unreal, surreal.  I'm sure I was/am bordering on clinical depression.

Well, I'm seeing an infectious disease doctor now.  He's not so sure it's mono, which he explains is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.  It could be any type of infection in any part of my body.  And it can be reactivating itself over and over.  I donated a ton of blood last week and I hope they have more answers.  He believes some of my symptoms can be treated.  I'm very grateful for all of the wonderful, emphatic doctors I've had but I am so tired of needles!

I'll keep you all posted.  Feel free to share any of your experiences, we can all certainly learn something from each other.  Moreover, let me know what you think of the furniture!  Please...I didn't write about this for so long because I didn't want a lot of attention or drama.  Now that you know the whole story I'll give you updates but other than that, I want to focus on fun things...if I can stay awake that long!

Jane x

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE BALANCING ACT IN WORK & PLAY


After temperatures in the mid twenties yesterday we are warming up.  It's very windy but sunny, and in the forties.  Love it.  I may get some extra exercise and rake up some of the sticks and dead leaves this afternoon.  Or not.  I'm really not good at prioritizing.  I look around now and I see breakfast dishes in the sink, a basket of laundry ready to go downstairs and a bathroom that needs a good scouring.  Yet I'd just love to curl up in a comfy chair, go through the stack of magazines that are piling up or finish one of the 3 books I've started. 

I stopped at Trader Joe last week when I was out in the burbs.  The flowers are definitely an attraction to reel people in. I bought these tulips as well as some yellow carnations.  I also bought some of their delicious salads and spreads such as the Taboule, tapenade, and babeleh.  These are great alone, spread on crackers or added to a green or pasta salad.  

I've been making a lot more salads lately.  I Pin a great many if you want to have a look at my Pinterest board.  The days of chopping up lettuce, adding some cucumber and tomato, and dousing the whole bowl with Italian dressing are over.  The more interesting, the better.  And they're not just for summer any more.  My doctor would like to see me eat less animal protein and since I keep my carbs way down, I can't have much pasta, rice, grains or beans.  The truth is, if I ever had a cheat day I wouldn't eat cookies or ice cream, chips or even bread, as Oprah craves.  I'd have a big 'ol bowl of rice and beans.   The other day Emily and I were heading out for some retail therapy and I offered to bring us a salad for lunch before.  It was simply a huge bowl of Romaine lettuce, finely chopped red pepper, onion, cucumbers, some shredded cheese,  a small handful of chickpeas and some black beans.  I made a light dressing of balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil.  As we ate (and she loved it), I was thinking of other beans that would have been nice, maybe some chopped olives or a scoop of quinoa.  The great thing was we had two servings from this huge bowl and shopped for almost 4 hours.  Usually we are tired and hungry afterward but not this time.  It was healthy and full of protein.






If you are interested in some meatless recipes, I highly recommend the book River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  He's a British writer and broadcaster and has written several cookbooks including River Cottage Meat and River Cottage Fish.   I've had the book open on my counter for the past two weeks.  I peruse the recipes, jot down the fresh items I need for a few and add them to my grocery list.  Very simple.  I've also taken to food shopping once or twice a week so the veggies are fresh.   Not everyone has the time but it sure beats canned or frozen.  I love the photography in this book, too.  The late great Charlie Trotter wrote in my copy of his book when I had the good fortune to meet him, "Food is love."  I also think food is art. :)

Onward...



This is the first weekend in awhile that we haven't been to the lake.  We've done so much work up there and it was balanced out with a lot of reading and relaxing.  Friday I just wanted to stay home, not have the two hour drive there and back and maybe see the kids.  We did get together at a restaurant about 3 blocks away.  It was fun; we saw some friends and neighbors as well.  Life is slow and somewhat quiet at the lake (with the exception of summer with all of the water toys buzzing around the water and tons of people walking, biking, running, rollerskating...).  The Husband had missed his Sunday morning breakfasts with Elsie.  These two have really bonded.  She just adores him and of course, he loves that attention! I've also had the time to get caught up on some things around the house.  Can you believe I'm still finding Christmas decorations?  In a hallway I happened to notice my sign that says, "Happy Spring".  I guess it can just stay there now.  

The sunsets have been so pretty without the leaves of the trees to obscure the sky.   This is actually facing southeast but I love the reflection on the bay.  Last weekend the weather was in the 60's and I sat outside with the dogs while The Husband split wood for kindling.  A neighbor was burning leaves; it felt like autumn.  I'm glad it's not.  I'm excited to get back to my gardens and sit on a nice clean beach.  



I've been hesitant in giving you a tour of the lakehouse without the decor completely finished.  Another shot of the furniture we had reupholstered.  It's hard to tell but the settee has little diamonds of blue that pick up colors from the sofa and loveseat.  I had a round jute area rug here before but the sun seems to have yellowed it.  I would think if anything it would fade but it didn't.  I have been looking online at every style and shade of area rugs I can and I get so discouraged.  I'm so picky.  And there is not one speck of artwork on the walls yet.  I have a ton to sell at the yard sale in June that I simply have no desire to hang again.  There was a time that I hung pieces just to fill the space.  Now I'm thinking quite a bit before I put a hole in the wall.  The walls are expansive so I need large pieces or groupings.  I get really insecure doing that.  You can rearrange furniture, add, edit or move around small pieces and table toppings,  but rugs, window treatments, artwork or anything that means making a hole in the wall...well that's major



Not much to do in this area...the coffee table is a mess of books and magazines.  The left side of the sofa is where I park in the morning with my coffee or at night with a fire going, maybe sipping wine and reading with that cozy quilt around me.  I mentioned that the carpenters covered over the floor outlet where we used to plug in a lamp on this small table.  I took the advice of the ladies on Instagram to use a lantern with a candle on this table.  I found a set of three at a shop in town, this one being the largest.  Looking at it from this view makes me think I should go down a size.  Gee...looking at these pics make me feel a little homesick for the lake and wish we were there!



Back at the ranch, I continue to declutter.  This counter is always an eyesore (and this is the after!).  It's across the room from the stove and sink so I really don't use it a ton.  Some would put the mixer and food processor away as well as the flour and sugar but I want it at the ready.  I think the reason I don't use my slow cooker much is because its buried in a cabinet and it's heavy!   See the empty cookie jar?  That's why I have the mixer out.  Time to get moving.  

 How do we keep a nice balance between having a clean, organized home/closet/car...fill in the blanks if you wish, and time for relaxing and living in the moment?  It's hard for me to kick back if I have stuff to get done.  And there's always stuff.  So, my question is...do you have a designated day for cleaning house or do you do it as needed, a little here and a little there?  There was a time when I had to have everything perfect, as if my mother was going to walk in unannounced with a white glove.  In fact I prided myself on being the Queen of Clean.  And then I realized how tired I was.  And I noticed my energy level for doing much else after I broke my bum picking up, organizing and disinfecting was nil.  Patterns change and sometimes I wonder if I'm being neglectful or just breaking free of  unrealistic standards I set up.  Just my thoughts on a Sunday afternoon, still looking at breakfast dishes while I ponder what to make for dinner.

  

I did a pretty good job simplifying the bedroom.  I recently bought this comforter from West Elm for the bed in the master bedroom at the lake.  Then I found another at Target that suited our room much better.  Loving this one so much I kept it for the bedroom here in the city.  The woven color is gray but I saw that you could get the comforter with red or blue accents.  The throw at the end is from Pottery Barn and a good five years old.  Abby even had it at her apartment for a while.  On really cold nights I layer it over the comforter which is super soft but not so thick.  Hello from Layla!  She turned 10 last week.  Like me, she needs to walk off a few pounds.  ;-D

So here's a little round up without all the unnecessary words:

From Blondie's Medical Journal:  An infection going on three months in my head and chest due to zero immunity.  Hoping the new meds are approved in March.  I stopped bothering to take OTC meds, so I just sleep as much as possible.  Probably the reason I'm agonizing over housework.

From Blondie's Library:  Just finished Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (quite good), and starting Since She Went Away, a thriller that I found at Target.  "...a chilling novel of guilt, regret, and a past that refuses to die..."  I have the feeling this will be a page turner.  

From Blondie's Guide to The Laziest Form of Entertainment:  Never disappointed by Blindspot, Timeless and This Is Us, the latter making me very down so I may stop watching.  Hmmmm...

From Blondie's Guide to Even More Lazy Forms of Entertainment:  Tried to start the new HBO series based on the book by Liann Moriarity,  Big Little Lies.  Got further in the book, as in two chapters.  Interesting characters but boring.  A shame because these are really good actors.  A better choice for a series would have been her book, The Husband's Secret.  Loved that.  Started an excellent series on HBO called Imposters.  OMGoodness; mystery, drama, action, humor, sexiness and great acting.  Great storyline, too.  Just a few episodes in, you can catch up if you have On Demand.  I'm anxious for Tuesday nights!

From Blondies Love Of Music Meant For the Younger Crowd:  I actually love driving, the farther the better, just to crank up that car radio.  So loving Mercy by Shawn Mendes.  The live performance from SNL is insane.  I'm also belting out the words along with Rihanna to Love on the Brain, and dreaming  with the Chainsmokers doing Paris.  Finally, loving the new(ish) singles out by The Weeknd, Starboy, and Bruno Mars, 24K Magic.

Okay, I may have lost most of you on this last one.  

I'll be back soon.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend and the start of a brand new week!

Jane x



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

THE GIFT OF MAKING CHANGES




Brooks Patrick
February 10, 2017
8 lbs., 2 oz.
Proud Parents, Jeffrey and Deirdre


Is he smiling or what?  We are so filled with love for this little guy already.  We were in the hospital waiting room with Deirdre's parents when Jeff came through the door from the Labor and Delivery section, arms raised high, "It's a baby boy!"  We were able to see mom and baby a little bit later.  Isn't he the most handsome little one you've ever seen?  I'm fighting a cold but once I'm not contagious I want to eat him up!  Ironically, Brooks was born the very same day as Elsie, February 10.  My sons having their firstborn on the same date, 2 years apart...wow.



Our little Madelyn came to visit on my birthday on the 3rd.  She's really smiling a lot.  She grows so fast, I'm wondering how Mondays With Madelyn will be once she starts crawling.  A lot of vacuuming and sweeping I'm sure.  Once the weather gets warmer, a looooong time from now, I want to go for walks with her in her stroller and maybe a few trips to the park up the street.  This is so fun.  I don't know how Emily feels but when Madelyn isn't sleeping, getting her bottle or a diaper change,  I like to put her in the portable cradle in front of the TV with Sesame Street on.  Before you think of me as being that type of mother, I mean grandmother, who lets the TV babysit the kids, you should see her smile and wiggle to the music and those cute Muppets as they sing and dance.  I think the music and colors and faces are really pretty cool for a baby.  Better than watching me fold sheets.

  

I am so wanting to make changes.  I think winter and being inside virtually most of the day makes me want to get wild and crazy.  The clean out and organize phase is over, or let's just say I'm good with the 2 closets and 4 drawers I did.  I also purged 3 sweaters and countless cotton tops that I shrunk in the dryer.  Does anyone else have problems with shrinkage?  I do have a tendency to buy more inexpensive clothing for hanging out around the house.  But man, I've been so good about hanging sweaters, bras and rugs to dry.  I know~~~I shouldn't wash them together.

So I was going for my highlights and I was going to have my girl cut it shorter and I was also thinking an alternative would be bangs.  She talked me out of short bangs and I did realize I would be a version of myself at ten years old with makeup and a lot of expensive hair products.  So she gave me side bangs.  This selfie is right after and of course, it's styled perfectly.  Since, it's been a disaster.  The bangs are going straight up in a bouffant sort of style (think Elvis), and when I finally tame them to casually go off my forehead, I've used so much gel, mousse and hairspray, my hair is bulletproof.  I've never been good with hair, I don't know why I have it.  I mean long hair.  Maybe it's the ease of pulling it up in a ponytail or loose bun and looking like the same old Jane day after day.  Maybe I should just accept the way my hair wants to go.  I might just avoid messy drawers, closets and fussy laundry as well.



After I cleared the Christmas decor off the mantel (about 2 weeks ago), I left it bare so I could pretend I was looking for inspiration.  I was actually parked in front of the TV every night watching Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med.  I do not watch these shows because I live here, God knows it's happening all around me,  I don't have to see it on TV when I have the news (I don't take this lightly) but I love to recognize streets, intersections, restaurants and the general links to Sweet Home Chicago.  Do you know they actually film here and really do use real names of streets, parks, etc.?  I was watching a chase scene recently on Chicago P.D. and they were going after a suspect downtown.  The dispatcher called in, "He's heading toward LSD east on Columbus"  As the officers said, "Copy that.",  I'm screaming, "No!  Take Randolph Street.  Less lights and traffic!!!"  I love interaction television.  

But getting back to the mantel, I really strove for simplicity and you know by now clutter is my middle name.  I think I got it with the mercury glass on each end (does anyone love mercury glass pieces anymore?  I love it and always have it here and there in vignettes).  I like to have something green or organic in every arrangement and I decided toss some books in randomly.  Every mantel needs a little randomness.  Some of mine are a total mishmash of stuff and I just tell myself that people will think I'm on to something, go home and totally trash out their mantelscape.  The sign is handmade from the cutting of the wood to the distressing and stamping of the words.  I wish I could remember the name of the blog where the husband and wife make the most incredible one of a kind pieces of art.  If you are sincerely interested, let me know and I will dig through my archives to when I first bought it.  This has been hanging in the master bedroom for a long time but as I said, I'm making big changes.  This was tough because I love my windows on the mantel.  



Well, you can see the window didn't make it far!  Another wall in the living room.  I really pared this down.  I usually keep family pictures in the bedrooms and family room but it's about mixing it up.  This will stay until spring/Easter, whichever comes first.  I'm feeling a little lighter.



Source Unknown


I'm sharing a recipe that knocked the socks off The Husband and I.  I think it may be a new Go To for making pork with a crispy coating and juicy flavor.  I may even use it on chicken.  The key is giving the meat a dry rub, browning it over high heat on the stove and then baking it with a light brushing of mustard and honey near the end.  You can find the recipe here.  No pictures from me.  I simply can't take good looking pictures of the food I make.  In fact I think it may make most readers turn away in disgust.

For your information I made the following changes:

~~~I did the whole recipe with pork tenderloin
~~~I increased the amount of the herbs and spices just a bit
~~~I cooked the meat to 120 degrees as opposed to 140.  It continues to cook once removed from the oven and I didn't want it dried out.

That's it.  I'm going to try it on chops and chicken.  This would be great on the grill as well.  

Bon Appetite

*****

I was super excited that The Husband fulfilled my birthday wish with something other than tacky pajamas and bad perfume.  ;-D  We have tickets to see Idina Menzel at the Chicago Theater in August.  I just love her.  She's a wonderful Broadway actress who has won Tony Awards for her roles in Rent and Wicked.  She is also the voice of Queen Elsa in Frozen, in which she sang Let It Go, and won an Oscar and a Grammy.  So...I'm such a fan and I just love the theater.  We used to go quite a bit before my hearing went downhill.  With headsets provided I can now enjoy going again.  Musicals are my favorite.  Funny, I barely mentioned it to The Husband and there were the tickets on my birthday.  Great seats, too!

I also forgot to mention that this sweet guy gave me a potting table for Christmas!  Yes!  A freaking potting table for the garden!  I've been crabbing and dropping hints forever and there it was Christmas morning, well sort of.  A photo copy of said potting table with the actual one in the garage waiting to be assembled.  This will be interesting.  If I want it by spring I may need him to get started now.

We are having ups and downs with the temperatures here but we are going up to 60 degrees (!!!) this weekend and after missing the lake 2 weekends in a row, I'm excited to get there and get some fresh air.  The Husband bought yet again, a new wood chopping device.  This one helps you make kindling and that's a must for making a good fire.  Have I ever told you I'm a really great fire starter?  With a big fireplace, wood burning stove, chiminea and outdoor wood burning stove..well, sometimes I've been inclined to get involved.  We do the outdoor fires 3 seasons, and the indoor fires for a good  6-8 months.  While he plays Davy Crockett, I plan to walk the dogs.  They are so huge and lazy with the lack of activity as the winter drones on.  And I need some exercise, too.  Seriously.  

Feel free to share some of your laundry woes with us, your like or dislike of seeing plays and musicals, as well as  any changes you will or won't be making as we near the dream of a possible early spring.  ;-D

Jane x 


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

SNOW DAYS



Hoping everyone is alive and well.  I'm curled up with a warm throw watching the Ladies of London, hence, it's not too hard to write a post at the same time.  A good movie...well, that's when I get behind in blogging.  

I wanted to share a great family get together we had at the lake this past weekend.  I applaud The Husband for planning it, he is super excited about getting the kids together for some activities up north other than just holidays.  Everyone was there except Jeff and Deirdre...their baby is due in early February and they felt it best to stay close to home.

Here's a shot of the happy group looking like they scaled Mt. Rainer.  Emily took the picture and I was down in the warming shelter with little Madelyn.  As you can see, there wasn't much snow.  That didn't stop us.



Ready.  Set.  Go...


I can't tell you how hysterical this is to watch.  The screams and laughs are what made it worth being out in 26 degree weather.  Having two year old Elsie experience something so new like this...watching adults act like kids, must have been incredibly amusing for her.  Kevin took her down the other side of the hill which wasn't as steep.




  She is a real Midwestern trooper and she's not letting go of her baby either.  She never complained of the cold and is a true daredevil on top of it.  I'm amazed at how fearless she is. 

I wanted so bad to hop on a sled...I can be pretty adventurous but I was worried about my back.  My doctor really planted a seed in my head that if I didn't work on getting in shape and do the exercises I learned in physical therapy, I'd have a lot of limitations.  I knew I was nowhere near ready and I had visions of my lower back held together by screws.  And let me add, while going downhill is fun and a little rough, walking back up dragging a sled is pretty unappealing as well!  

Emily wanted to have a little fun, too, so I snuggled with Madelyn in the warming shelter, which wasn't so warm.  There was a huge stone fireplace but as we were the only crazy people there due to the lack of good snow, it wasn't lit and we didn't feel it was safe to leave a burning fire.  I was fine however, and Madelyn slept through it all.  Any chance to have that little peanut in my arms is good enough.



The fresh air and a long leisurely lunch at a nearby ski resort made Elsie very tired.  She took a nap but daddy woke her up after two hours so she'd have a normal bedtime.  I love how Mary Clare and Kevin have a tight schedule.  She was still a little cranky but was content to watch a few Mickey Mouse shows on an iPad.  

This is the first time she was at the lakehouse.  She settled in naturally and I can't wait for summer when she can play outdoors on the beach and in the water.  Still, this weekend wasn't too shabby.



Madelyn had a good 'ol time, too, although she won't remember it.  She was just there to make us smile and love her.



I was so excited to see the newly upholstered furniture.  We had found a really fantastic family owned business in a nearby town to redo three pieces we couldn't bear to part with.  When they were finished we gave the people the code to get in the house.  We have cameras inside so we can be pretty confident in situations like this.  

This is one of 2 glider rockers we have had forever.  They are so comfy, I love to sit and read in them, rocking the whole time.  Or just fall in a trance looking out at the bay.  



This is the settee we bought at the same time as the gliders.  The camel back makes it quite unique.  All of these pieces were in super shape; when one lives in a home that gets used on various weekends and 2 weeks in the summer, the wear and tear is minimal.  This is another really comfy piece.  You can't stretch out on it but we have a nice little conversation corner here, not to mention the dogs love to lie here and watch out the windows for anything that moves.  

I'll share better pics later as I have an end table I'm going to bring up from here and a sweet nautical lamp.  We also have curtains, blinds and maybe someday, artwork.  Hmmmm....if only The Husband and I can agree.



Maybe all of this cold weather talk has made you crave a warm, comforting meal.  Yep, I'm giving you a recipe for my very own tried and true stew and I promise, if you make this version you will never go back to the one you've been doing.  As always, you can substitute veggies and seasonings.  Let me know if you try it and love it like we do.  

Jane's Beef Stew

1 lb. beef stewing meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. flour
2 T veggie oil
1 c red wine
3 c. beef broth
1 c each chopped onion, celery and carrots
1 medium red potato, cubed
S&P to taste
1 t dried oregano
1 T dried thyme
1 bay leaf

Toss the stew meat in a large bowl with the flour while heating oil in a large oven proof pot or dutch oven.  Brown the cubes on all sides over medium high heat, turning when meat loosens from bottom of pot.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Carefully add the wine and stir, scraping up bits of meat off the bottom of the pot.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the meat, veggies and spices and continue to boil 5 minutes.  Stir well, cover the pot with a lid and place in preheated oven at 325 degrees for 2 hours.  Remove and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serves 4.

Hover over the pic to Pin if you wish.  You will love this!  In this particular stew I used some Brussels sprouts sliced in half.  Use up what you have in your veggie bin or just switch things around as you prefer.



I'll be darned, but even though we now have Internet at the lake I continue to read one book after the other.  I read a great review of this book in People magazine and ordered it on the spot.  I'm halfway through and savoring it.  Since I'm not so great at reviewing books, check it out at Amazon.

See ya soon!

Jane x






Sunday, January 22, 2017

SOME FAVORITE BOOKS & MOVIES AND HOW TO SURVIVE AFTER A TRIP TO THE DENTIST


Hello everyone!  Doesn't it seem like January is flying by? At this time last month we were down to that frenzied crunch of getting Christmas shopping finished.  Funny how our plans, worries and frustrations are so easily transferred to other things.  

It's been a typical Chicago winter.  Typically unexpected in a day to day way.  I've been doing the shoveling number.  When it snows it's easier for me...the Keeper of the Home Fires, to shovel that white stuff off the walks and then continue to do so every hour or so in an effort to look like I haven't neglected my neighborhood duty.   We do have a snow blower but since my vacuum cleaner often confuses me, I don't even want to deal with that thing.  

This is best I could do with a selfie (and without a speck of makeup) as I shoveled a little path for the dogs in the backyard.  We had a few days of below zero weather.  Parts of the old house were so cold a space heater was needed.  

  As I wrote this post in segments, the snow has now melted after days of rain, ice, more rain and now temps in the high 50's.   I've been able to not only open the blinds and curtains that we keep closed for insulation, but I have windows open a bit, too.  It smells so clean.  Heavenly.


This was taken before the lake froze.  Off in the distance is the island.  In case I've never mentioned, there are about 100 homes on the island and a ferry keeps people and cars going back and forth all day.  Most people get around by golf carts.  Over the past few weeks we have seen ice fisherman setting up camp on our little bay and ice skaters on the lake.  I love that because some winters we just don't freeze over.  The ice fisherman are special people to me.  Years ago when I was very new to the lake I attempted to cross a frozen channel on foot, it was super cold and it was a short cut.  As I neared the end of the dock I was trying to reach, I could feel and hear the ice creaking and moaning and the water puddling around my boots.  I was probably walking on about 15-20 feet of water.  I heaved my self on to the dock and ran to the home of one of my good friends.  She took me aside very sternly.  She pointed to the lake.  "Do you see any ice fisherman out there?"  I didn't.  "Then the lake is not frozen.  It's not safe."  I think about that cold January day.  So quiet, not a soul around.  That heavy coat, scarf and boots I wore would surely would have weighed me down.  Do you ever feel you have 9 lives? 

Up until last weekend we didn't have television or Internet.  I was finding it very cozy to curl up on the sofa with the warmth of the fire and plow through a few books.  I finally finished Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch.  I was really looking forward to the last book in her trilogy as The Husband and I  spent time on Martha's Vineyard for his 40th birthday.  I think she's a wonderful writer and she appeals to so many of us women with her warmth and sense of humor. And most of you know, I love (and envy) women who strike out on their own.  The part where a horrific Nor'easter hits the island and she lies in bed with the blankets up to her chin, I just thought, wow.  This would have had me packing my bags and heading back home to mom and dad.  What did puzzle me is that she was living on MV for a good six years before she met the love of her life, and she doesn't mention any friendships.  I'm surprised that she didn't make a slew of friends given her fun personality.  Other than her neighbors it seems like this was a very lonely time.  Have you read the book?

Another book I read was The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  I devoured it in two sittings but I'm not sure if that's because it was such a page turner or that we were frozen inside the lakehouse.  Like many of the people who reviewed the book, it has a lot of similarities to The Girl on the Train.  A very flawed heroine who no one takes seriously and a plot that keeps you guessing until the end.  It's a little dark but is that a bad thing?

Ironically I did watch Girl on the Train last weekend and was really happy that it didn't disappoint.  Emily Blunt was perfect as Rachel.   She really put a face to the character in the book.  Loved it.  On the light side I watched Bridget Jones' Baby.  Not every one's cup of tea (har har) but I liked it.   




I can't remember how I came across this book, 52 Lists Projects, or at least what led me to order it from Amazon, but in trying to get back to some journaling I thought it might be a good start.  The book is sectioned into 52 weeks and at the start of each week there is a  little prompt such as, List All The People Who Brighten Your Day, or List All The Things That Make You Feel Powerful.  And yes, they are all 'lists'.  And then of course you can expound on these subjects.  I think it sounds fun and I really am trying to get back into the mode of writing, as with paper and pen. I get a lot of satisfaction out of using a plain old calendar/planner, too, as opposed to the Notes app on my phone.  The planners at Target are so darn cool, its hard to make up your mind which one to get.  I found a matching notebook that can be refilled with legal size tablets and now I have all my notes for my posts and newspaper articles in one place.  


I have been on a Pinning frenzy lately, especially soups and salads.  Both leave me wide open to interesting possibilities and I usually just do a quick grab of anything in the fridge and throw together one or the other.  Since they are healthy and relatively low in carbs, I've been having some fun.  If you'd like to have a look at some of the recipes I've fallen in love with, you can look at what I've Pinned here.  I have a category for Healthy Soups & Stews, and another for Not Your Everyday Salads.  You can also click on the Pinterest icon on my sidebar.

One of the ways you can start incorporating the use of new recipes into your week (or month) is what I usually do.  On the back of my grocery list I write the name(s) of the new recipes and the source (a cookbook or Pinterest), then I list the ingredients I don't have on hand.  At some point you may find that it's second nature to have certain ingredients on hand like boxed broth, beans and other canned or packaged ingredients (aim for preservative free).  Picking up fresh veggies at the grocery store is your best bet but since I have the propensity for buying much more than I came for, sometimes its best to first make the meals that require the very freshest veggies.  Onions, carrots and potatoes can hang out for a while.  And never feel that every day you need to try something new.  I alternate recipes for meals that take some time and thought with those that even a monkey could do:  Grilled cheese and chips, pasta tossed with olive oil and cheese, a simple chicken Caesar salad.  

I came across this recipe somewhere on Pinterest and wasn't going to make it as I've been eating Buffalo Everything for every gathering in the past three years.  But I had all of the ingredients and I spiked things up a little here and there.  I found it was quick, simple and delicious.

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

2 large boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 T butter
2 T olive oil, divided
3/4 to 1 c Frank's Wing Sauce
1 T celery seed
3-4 green onions, green and white parts, chopped
2 4 oz. cans of green chile's
4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2 c shredded iceberg or Romaine lettuce
8 flour tortillas
Salsa and/or Ranch dressing (optional)

Heat the shredded chicken in a skillet with 2 T butter.  You can use a store bought cooked rotisserie chicken or as I do, bake the chicken breasts up to a day ahead.  Stir and warm through.  Add the olive oil, wing sauce, celery seed, green onion and chile's.  Combine and cook over low heat, covered for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.   Adjust ingredients for taste as you go along.  I'm not crazy about super spicy so go easy on the wing sauce at first. 

 Finally, stir in the cheeses, incorporating well as they melt.  When mixture is creamy, remove from heat and serve with tortillas.  They may be topped with the lettuce before or after the chicken mixture.  Drizzle on Ranch dressing and a scoop of salsa.  Roll up and serve with plenty of napkins.  I garnished mine with cilantro and limes and this can easily be added right to the chicken mixture.  Adding black beans and a handful of cheddar cheese ups the protein.  I think you can have a lot of fun playing with this.  Serves 4





The melted snow is nothing to get excited about, Milo.  These have been really lazy days for the dogs.  The house at the lake really wears them out.  We have floor to ceiling windows in the Great Room so they are always watching, on guard for anything from a chipmunk to Big Foot.  They take their jobs seriously.  As you can see from this picture, access to windows here in the city aren't as easy to maneuver.

 Final details are happening.  I had our settee and glider rockers reupholstered and they were finished up last week and delivered.  These pieces make up a little conversation area in a corner of the Great Room near the windows.  We can have our coffee and look out at the lake in the morning or sit with a group of friends and chat.  So I'm so psyched about seeing the 'new' furniture.  The contractor is finishing up little details like shelves in the kitchen cabinets and toilet tissue holders in the walls. Before we know it the weather will be warm and we'll head outside to work on the gardens and spiff up the boats.  I just felt a wave of fatigue come over me!



So this is what we do for now between the trips to Michigan and my daily running around.  I have little Madelyn here on Mondays when Emily works downtown.  She's actually a wobbly little baby now, looking around and smiling.  I have a cradle type thing in my bedroom for her to nap in (I can't begin to describe or give names to this paraphernalia that is out there for babies now).   Emily and I went to Buy Buy Baby last week and I stopped dead in my tracks.  The entire place smelled like baby.  Fresh out~of~the~bath sweet smelling baby.  And its true, stores have scents added to the ventilation systems in stores.  Sometimes you might smell a musky cologne scent in the men's section of Macy's.  Stores that sell sweets often pipe in that fresh baked smell.  This baby smell though...I would have easily added #5 to the family if I was still young and frisky.  

Last night we went to daughter in law Deirdre's baby shower.  It was held at her and Jeff's home and it was a nice crowd of about 50.  Maeve made all of the food; Chicken Tetrazzini, salad and garlic bread.   She does beautiful appetizer boards with meats, cheeses, dates, nuts, olives, crackers and bread sticks, and it's as beautiful as it is delicious.  The baby's room is almost finished.  This is such an exciting time.  Deirdre is due February 14.  They don't know the sex and that makes it even more fun.  A lot of guessing going on.

I finally had the surgery on my front tooth, well actually the tooth just to the left of my front tooth.  Well hello!  Isn't this interesting people?  There was a fracture way up near my nose, so it had to be pulled and I needed an implant.  I so wanted to be knocked out for this, and that's odd because I've never been nervous in any way, shape or form when going to the dentist or even a doctor.  But this was surgery and I rescheduled the appointment twice.  I have no idea how this tooth fractured but it has been terrible experience all around.

The Husband might have been feeling a little guilty that I was going alone but seriously, I'm just not one of those people who asks for help or company.  He kept insisting he'd go downtown to court and then zoom back to meet me at the dentist office.  In spite of my pleas that he just stay away, I was sitting in the waiting room when I felt a whoosh of cold air and the the door opened.  There he was, trench coat billowing, hair a mess, looking wildly around and then clasping his hands to his chest in relief when he saw me.  

"Oh!  Thank God I made it in time.  How are you?"

"What are you doing?  Just go home.  I'm fine."

"No, no.  I want to be here with you!"

"Please, I'm not having a baby."

"No!  It's much worse!"  

The man has clearly never given birth.  And I believe he has all of his teeth.

So they call me into the little surgical area and lo and behold, he's following me.  I'm shooing him away like he's a stray dog as he asks the nurse if it's okay for him to be there.  As she's saying yes, I'm saying no, and soon all three of us are in a debate in this tiny little room that has now caused me to start shaking by looking at all the sharp tools on the sterilized tray.  Somewhere in between the time he was asking the nurse how long the procedure would take and how long she had to go to school to learn what she was doing, she was leading him out and telling him my medication had already been called into the pharmacy and might he not want to amuse himself perhaps by picking that up while he was waiting?  I was stretched out in the chair, swaddled in white paper, gripping the armrests and praying he'd go get that pain killer ASAP.  I just wanted to get home and heavily medicate myself by that point.  

So that was the fun part.  After a lot of cutting and blood and sutures, as well as  something in my mouth that resembles my mother's upper dentures, I arrived home to The Husband sitting in a chair with a Big Mac and fries, watching a hockey game.  

"Did you pick up my meds?"

"No.  I thought you'd get them on your way home?"

"But you did find time to stop for food."

"Yeah, I was hungry.  I got you a Quarter Pounder."

"I can't eat!!!"

Hysteria is rising somewhere in my throat because I know my mouth was too numb to move.

 I went to lie down and kept feeling those darn stitches with my tongue.  Two weeks?  And then the pain started coming,  I felt it spreading over the left side of my face.  I touched my mouth and felt dried blood on my lips.  Man, they could have cleaned me up a little before they sent me home.  I felt like Donald Duck.  Finally I called out to The Husband as best I could:

"Are you going to Walgreens soon?"

"Yeah.  We're in the 2nd quarter."

"But I'm sort of in pain now."

"Yeah, about 45 minutes."

I can't repeat my dialogue here.  I consider this a family blog.

"Okay, okay.  I thought you said you had given birth."

***

Well, I'm sorry this is so long.  It's what happens when I'm gone for over 2 weeks.  You stop having conversations in your head and just start to share them on your blog. 

So...have you read anything interesting recently?  Have you seen any good movies?  How's the weather in your neck of the woods as Al Roker would ask?  Were you watching reruns of Full House and Frasier on Friday afternoon as I was?  

I'll be back.  Thanks for being patient with me!

Jane x